Florida Orders Mental Exam for Worker Who Pushed Climate Change Agenda
Florida Gov. Rick Scott's unofficial official policy of climate denial has taken a turn for the bizarre: A high-level employee in the state Department of Environmental Protection now says he was suspended and told to get a medical evaluation for refusing to purge mentions of climate change from a state record.
Scott—the dumbest politician in the history of politicians, capable of tuning out an entire room of scientists confronting him with fact-type thingies—has come under fire for more than a week after multiple reports from state workers that his administration banned them from mentioning climate change, global warming and sea-level rise, issues that are sort of germane in a state with 1,350 miles of coastline and the lowest elevation above sea level of any state other than Delaware.
Scott, predictably, denies such a policy is in place. But state land management coordinator Barton Bibler—who clearly was trying to test the administration's (rising) waters—has been forced by the state to prove he's not crazy after he refused to scrub mentions of "climate change" from the official minutes of a department meeting where he says climate change was a major topic of discussion.
Here's what happened, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which has taken up Bibler's case:
He attended a Florida Coastal Managers Forum on February 27, 2015 at which climate change and sea-level rise were discussed among a mix of public attendees. Mr. Bibler's official notes on this meeting reflected all of that discussion. He was directed to remove any hot button issues, especially explicit references to climate change, and then was given a letter of reprimand for supposedly misrepresenting that the "official meeting agenda included climate change."
According to Bibler's notes on the meeting, climate change was on a lot of people's minds:
But according to his letter of reprimand, Bibler's notes originally included that climate change agenda under the name of the meeting's moderator, a high-ranking official named Ann Lazar. "This was not part of the original agenda developed by Ann," Bibler's supervisor wrote, and so he was sent back to "revise" his notes—perhaps out of fear that they might suggest Lazar had run afoul of the Scott administration's unwritten edict.
Bibler altered the header to remove Lazar's name from the notes, but he kept all the mentions of climate change. That, PEER says, led to the state putting Bibler on leave and telling him not to come back until he was cleared by a doctor. His reprimand cited the state's ordinance against public employees doing political lobbying while on the job.
The documents suggest Bibler was hardly blameless in the incident; during the meeting, his comments veered into personal opinions against the Keystone XL pipeline, which—however dumb it may be—isn't perhaps among the topics most relevant to the state's struggle with climate change. And when Bibler's supervisor ordered him to alter his record of the meeting, he got downright juvenile, according to his reprimand:
You then emailed what you said was an attached agenda of your notes of agency reports on climate change. The attachment was of the words Keystone XL Pipeline with a red circle and a cross through it.
Immature, sure, and a level of subordinate squirreliness that warranted correction. But if climate change was a major topic of the meeting, why was Bibler ordered to alter his account of the gathering? And did his behavior really warrant a psych eval? His supervisors sure think so:
Based upon Personnel Rules regarding Attendance and Leaving, specifically, Compulsory Disability Leave and also information we have received regarding your medical condition and behavior, we have attached a Medical Release Form you will need to have your doctor complete before you will be able to return to work.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is requesting your physician's professional opinion concerning your ability to return to work and to perform the duties and responsibilities of your position on a full time basis.
Elsewhere in Bibler's reprimand, his supervisor calls his job performance "exceptionally good" and makes clear that he is "a valued employee." But, it adds, "your inappropriate behavior must be permanently changed in order to re-establish a relationship of trust between you and your supervisors."
A DEP spokeswoman refused to comment on Bibler's case, only telling the Palm Beach Post Wednesday: "There's no such policy banning the use of 'climate change.'"